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Clippings: The worst thing that can happen in sports

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We got some examples this weekend.

2021 NBA Playoffs - LA Clippers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Over the weekend, I was reminded of the opening scene of Molly’s Game when Jessica Chastain’s character narrates the results of a survey asking people what is the worst thing that can happen in sports. For all the joy I derive out of watching sports, there were some gut-wrenching moments the past two days.

This thought exercise is probably all-too familiar for Clippers fans. Some of the worst things that could happen to the Clippers did just happen in the past three weeks, and there’s no point in reliving them right now.

But other teams experienced some of the most terrible moments sports has to offer this weekend, and it made me curious as to what qualifies as the worst.

For instance, losing in an international exhibition game doesn’t seem that bad. But when you’re Team USA, the standard of basketball around the world, and you’re preparing for a run at an Olympic gold, it’s pretty embarrassing to lose, especially when you’re coming off a seventh-place finish at the World Cup. On top of that, to lose to a team with no NBA All-Stars, one that the USA had beaten by 83 points at the 2012 Olympics, is bad. It’s really bad. Maybe not one of the worst things in sports, but we’re just getting started.

How about if you’re the Brazilian men’s soccer team, hosting an international championship against your arch-nemesis Argentina. Not only do you lose for the first time ever at home in a Copa América final, that defeat ensures that Leo Messi wins his first senior-level title, essentially the only thing missing from his extensive resume. In the clip from Molly’s Game, one of the answers provided is Brazil losing to Argentina, any time, anywhere. This loss was on the second-biggest stage possible. It’s pretty bad.

To which England says, hold my beer. The English haven’t won a men’s soccer title since 1966, and they hadn’t even advanced to a final since then until Sunday when they competed for the Euro 2020 championship. They went up 1-0 in the second minute and proceeded to play the remainder of the game as a hockey penalty kill, which went about as well as good be expected. Then, when the match was destined for a shootout, their manager subbed in two cold kickers in the final minutes, each of whom missed their penalty, and England lost the crown on their home field. Blowing a lead via poor management truly is the worst feeling as a fan.

But all those losses might not even compare to the feeling Chris Paul and the Suns must have had when they saw that Scott Foster was officiating Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Paul had lost the last 11 playoff games refereed by Foster, so the very worst thing that could have happened to him was lining up with Foster again. Lo and behold, Phoenix was whistled for six more fouls than Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo shot more free throws than the Suns, and Paul lost his 12th straight game with Foster on the court. For a certain segment of fans, a Foster-officiated game is the worst thing that can happen in sports.

Maybe this weekend was a run of the mill sports experience, and I’m being hyperbolic about the depths of despair certain fan bases may have felt. Or maybe that’s the point — that any individual sporting experience can produce strong feelings and you just have to hope you’re on the right side more often than not.

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